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08 December 2023

Anti-Berlusconi hackers block Italy government website

A protester dressed like a magistrate takes part in a protest against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Arcore, near Milan. The sign reads "Silvio...here I am". (REUTERS)

By Reuters

The Italian government's website came under attack from computer hackers on Sunday, police said, after opponents of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said they would target the site to protest against curbs to media freedom.

The action was the latest against Berlusconi, who has faced protests since prosecutors opened an investigation last month into wild parties at his Milan villa, accusing him of illegally paying for sex from a prostitute who was under 18.

Access to the website appeared to be blocked briefly during the afternoon, although it was working normally by evening.

The hackers, calling themselves Anonymous Italy, criticized a number of Italian government policies and said they were responding to a cable leaked by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks from the US embassy in Rome.

In the cable dated a year ago, US diplomats described a new Italian media law as "troubling, as it appears to have been written to give the government enough leeway to block or censor any Internet content."

"The bill also appears to favor PM Berlusconi's Mediaset television service, while disadvantaging Sky, one of its major competitors."

Computer hackers using the name Anonymous have acted in recent weeks on behalf of WikiLeaks, which infuriated the United States by releasing US military and diplomatic documents in the past year.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in an Italian television interview on Sunday that in coming weeks Wikileaks would publish new, sensitive documents about Italy's government.

A weekend of protests against Berlusconi continued on Sunday when demonstrators gathered outside his villa. Italian television reported that six people suffered slight injuries when marchers tussled with police.